It is time to say goodbye - for a while, at least - to the eight-year-old Singapore Fashion Festival (SFF). Launched in 2001 to showcase international labels to shoppers here, the fest will take a break next year as organisers give it a makeover.
The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) announced last month that it will work together with government agencies IE Singapore and Spring Singapore to relaunch the SFF in 2010.
Details about the revamp are scant so far but it will be benchmarked against 'international fashion platforms such as the Fashion Weeks held in Milan, Paris, London and New York', says Andrew Phua, STB's director of cluster development, tourism shopping and dining.
There is also talk of merging the SFF and the trade-based Singapore Fashion Week, although this idea has been floating around for several years.
With the recent success of the Formula One night race and the upcoming integrated resorts and refurbished Orchard Road, this year's SFF director Tjin Lee believes that 'the SFF has an important role to play in making Singapore a key lifestyle hub'.
She heads events company Mercury, which organised the fest this year and will work with previous SFF sponsors to hold a fashion showcase next year .
'Everybody is grappling for the title of Asia's fashion hub and we are in a very good position,' says Lee, 34. 'Hong Kong's fashion scene has more of a trade environment. Shanghai and Beijing have plans to do a consumer-driven event, but Singapore has a head start and a successful formula that just needs to be tweaked.'
We asked a few industry players - including chief executive of fashion distributor FJ Benjamin Douglas Benjamin, fashion show producer Daniel Boey, and veteran designers Tan Yoong and David Wang - to suggest changes they would most like to see in 2010.
FASH FEST WISHLIST
» More sponsorship for local designers
Showing off home-grown talent is the easiest way for the SFF to stand out. Sponsors can help promising designers by footing the bill for their collections and runway shows. An initiative such as Blueprint - SFF 2008 director Tjin Lee's idea of giving local designers a rent-free space to show their wares in The Heeren - can also be expanded to boost the presence of home-grown talent in the SFF.
» Help me help you
Local designers can also take the initiative when it comes to marketing their brand. Media-savvy types like John Galliano and Tom Ford are not just designers; they are experts at presenting their brand identities to the press. Basics like giving choice soundbites to reporters and professionally packaged press releases will go a long way.
» Happy together
No more relegating local designers to less prestigious locations and unpopular time slots while the international labels show at the main tent and prime weekend slots. With top-tier home-grown talent like Ashley Isham and Andrew Gn holding their own on the world stage, why shouldn't the fest open and close with shows by local labels that have done Singapore proud?
» Bring in the crowds
The SFF's aim is to encourage retail sales, so hold the shows during convenient time slots like after office hours. Market the shows like ticketed concerts or musicals so they are not viewed as insider events but as must-see shows for fashionistas.
» Branching out
Orchard Road may still be the ideal base for the fest because of its central location but high net worth shoppers and finicky international fashion press are likely to be drawn to the event if more unconventional events were held at unusual venues like the National Museum. An exhibition on the role of fashion in art, for example, could lure all the right bold-faced names.
» By their powers combined
Most people we talked to are not in favour of merging the SFF - which showcases currently-in-store items to potential shoppers - and the Singapore Fashion Week - which shows upcoming collections to potential buyers like department stores.
Rather, the distinction between the retail-driven festival and the trade-based one should be made clearer. Still, having a single competent organiser for both events may help to streamline fund-raising operations.
» Global power
As international labels debut their new collections during American and European fashion weeks months before the SFF, their shows at the SFF should have a new element. Be it an innovative show (such as Fendi's Great Wall of China runway show last year) or a retrospective, these shows should not be boring repetitions of what have already been staged.
This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times on Oct 17, 2008.